While many businesses have recently begun adjusting to the challenges of a remote workforce, fleet managers have struggled with this setup for decades. How do you assess driver performance or evaluate vehicle health and efficiency from hundreds or thousands of miles away? The answer today is telematics.
In this post, we’ll cover telematics trucking technology and its primary use cases, so you can decide which tech you need in 2023.
What Is Telematics?
Telematics is telecommunications and informatics software that monitors truck and driver performance and controls specific functions. It typically includes a GPS component and can send, receive, and store data. Telematics systems may be embedded in newer-model trucks; they can also connect via a SIM card to an OBD-II or CAN bus port.
Telematics systems for trucks can increase fleet efficiency, improve driver performance, and prevent accidents and mechanical malfunctions.
Let’s look at how fleets can use telematics trucking technology.
Aerodynamic drag wastes fuel. To counteract that inefficiency, many fleets have turned to aerodynamic modifications over the years, with varying levels of adoption.
Some aerodynamic solutions provide minimal benefit compared to their inconvenience. For example, while fleets can remove bug deflectors to decrease drag slightly, drivers might not appreciate having to clean their windshields at every stop. And some aerodynamic devices — like roof fairings — aren’t compatible with every make and model of Class 8 truck.
A breakthrough in this trucking tech is TruckWings, an active aerodynamics device that automatically closes the gap between tractor and trailer when driving speed exceeds 52 mph. The wings collapse flat against the tractor when speed drops below 50 mph, so they don’t interfere with low-speed maneuverability.
TruckWings requires no input from drivers, and it opens and closes quietly, so it’s not a distraction.
Fleets using this low-maintenance, easy-to-install truck technology can see a 3-6% increase in fuel efficiency. TruckWings is also compatible with EV trucks, which can improve battery range.
|Case study: Learn how a 235,000-vehicle fleet improved its fuel economy by 4.1% using TruckWings.|
Electronic logging devices (ELDs) are mandatory for all trucks and buses subject to hours-of-service (HOS) laws and help maintain compliance with federal regulations. But they don’t offer the detailed insights fleet managers can get with newer trucking technology.
Telematics sensors can help fleet managers identify unsafe driving habits — like speeding and following too closely. These sensors can also register excessive idling, harsh braking, and rapid acceleration, which are driving habits that decrease fuel efficiency.
Driver monitoring technology has become more sophisticated in recent years. So, for example, instead of only measuring braking and acceleration, telematics systems can issue “driver scorecards” that take into account variables such as:
- Truck type
- Load type and weight
- Transmission shifting data
- Actual vs. potential fuel economy
- Travel routes
These variables could impact job performance, so detailed driver scoring ensures fleet managers aren’t using criteria that unfairly penalize some drivers.
Telematics can alert fleet managers to engine faults, improper tire inflation, and upcoming maintenance needs. This real-time information helps prevent costly service disruptions and dangerous vehicle malfunctions.
Some telematics monitoring systems also integrate with maintenance scheduling features, so drivers and fleet managers can instantly schedule service when needed.
Vehicle platooning is similar to drafting — a strategy in which race car drivers follow each other closely to reduce drag. Class 8 trucks, however, have a much greater stopping distance than small cars, so platooning could be dangerous if it relied solely on driver judgment and reactions.
Autonomous and semi-autonomous platooning uses telematics to facilitate communication between trucks. For example, if the foremost truck in a platoon decelerates, the following trucks do the same simultaneously. This trucking technology could reduce drag and improve fleet efficiency, but some barriers exist.
State laws vary widely regarding autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. Some states don’t allow autonomous vehicles of any type, while other states allow autonomous semi-trucks only. And minimum legal following distances vary by state, too. Without uniformity in laws from state to state, tech-powered platooning probably won’t work for long-haul operations — at least not yet.
Driver fatigue, inattention, and excessive stopping distances are known risk factors for large truck crashes. Telematics systems help counteract these factors in a few ways:
LiDAR and Emergency Braking
Forward collision warning tech and automated emergency braking (AEB) can significantly reduce the number of rear-end crashes involving large trucks. A study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that trucks with those two technologies had 41-44% fewer rear-end crashes than trucks without those technologies.
These systems use LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology to sense when a truck is following too closely, then communicate with AEB systems to engage the brakes and/or alert the driver to brake.
Video Intelligence Systems
Video intelligence systems for trucks also include forward collision crash prevention, but they work differently than LiDAR. These systems have a network of cameras monitoring conditions surrounding the truck and providing a live video feed inside the truck. They may also include a driver-facing camera that can help fleet managers identify when drivers are distracted or inattentive.
Based on the information cameras “see,” the software can alert drivers to imminent crash hazards. These systems also virtually eliminate driver blind spots, which makes lane changes and reversing much safer.
Large fleets can’t rely on Google Maps to plan routes. Telematics is a better option, as it offers dynamic routing and stores route data, which can help fleet managers spot driving and delivery trends.
Unlike Google Maps, dynamic routing technology helps fleet managers plan multi-stop routes, track trailers, and assets, and scale deliveries to accommodate fluctuating demand.
Use Technology to Improve Fleet Performance and Safety
Trucking technology isn’t just another expense — it’s an investment that offers significant returns. With the right trucking tech, fleet managers can cut fuel costs, improve vehicle performance, and reduce the risk of accidents.
TruckWings is one type of trucking tech that offers results right away. Installation takes about two hours, and trucks can be on the road.
Five of the ten largest fleets in North America are using TruckWings to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Learn more about how TruckWings helps fleets save money.